I love to cook and bake--we enjoy ethnic foods from many places; we delight in the colors and fragrances of fruits and vegetables; and we truly savor the flavors and smells of herbs and spices. I continue to cook and even bake in the summertime--some evenings. At other times, I rely on some favorites that require little or no cooking. Salads of all kinds, obviously. A dinner based on the perfect green beans and strawberries from our friends' organic farm, with perhaps a grainy bread, good cheese and wine.
Another family favorite is Easy "Cool Kitchen" Chicken. This is a cooking method taken, I believe, from a suggestion in a Woman's Day magazine some years ago. It produces tender, succulent chicken for the first day and handy leftovers for a future meal--and it's easy on both the cook and the budget.
At least 3 1/2 hours before your meal, wash and clean out one or two whole chickens (a 5 or 6 pound roasting chicken works well). Place in a heavy pot with a tightly fitting lid, add enough water to cover, and your choice of flavorings. I usually toss in plenty of big chunks of onion and celery, some sage, thyme and rosemary, 2 or 3 chicken bouillon cubes, and a liberal shake of pepper. You could instead use Italian herbs or chili powder--whatever you like (the magazine suggested fresh or ground ginger for a Chinese flavor).
Over high heat on the stove, bring the pot to a boil, turn heat down and simmer for about 30 minutes (I sometimes let it simmer a bit longer, but 30 is enough). Then turn the heat off, but DO NOT REMOVE THE LID OF THE POT. Let the chicken steep in the liquid for 3 hours or more (as long as the pot is somewhat hot to the touch, it will not spoil), strain off the liquid and chunky vegetables and serve. In the meantime, go to the beach (that's me, "cooking", in the photo above) or pour your favorite cold beverage and grab a good book--dinner is on the way.
The chicken meat is delicious pulled off the bone and eaten warm. If you are thinking, "Stewed chicken, yuck!", give it a try--I suspect you will be surprised. The broth tends to be thin, so needs a flavor boost to work as a soup base, but can also be refrigerated for cooking potatoes, rice, or vegetables--healthy and delicious. Let me know how you like it.
Question of the day: What is your favorite cool kitchen summer meal?